I'll be in the Kansai region for eleven days (September 5 to 15). I'm flying in and out of Kansai International Airport, will spend a couple of days attending a conference at the Kyoto International Conference Center, and I might visit some nearby / near-ish towns (Nara, Osaka, perhaps Takayama or Kanazawa). I don't anticipate going to Tokyo (been there, done that) or further north (too far for a relatively short period of time). Regarding locations to the west, I'm not particularly interested in Hiroshima.

Does it make sense to get a JR Pass or even a regional pass, as opposed to not getting a pass? If it's a line-ball decision, how can I easily weigh up the costs of getting or not getting a pass?

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    – Fattie
    Jul 12, 2016 at 12:42

3 Answers 3


It can make sense depending on your itinerary.

As you will be spending (what seems like) most of your time in Kyoto (and I assume staying somewhere close to the International Conference Centre) you may want to look into getting something like the Kansai Thru Pass 3-day ticket.

This grants you unlimited use of all services from...

Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau
Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau
Kobe Municipal Transportation Bureau
Hanshin Electric Railway, Hankyu Railway
Nankai Railway
Keihan Railway
Kintetsu Railway
Sanyo Electric Railway
Kobe Electric Railway
Itami Municipal Transportation Bureau
Amagasaki Municipal Transportation Bureau
Takatsuki City Transportation Dept.
Osaka Monorail
Kita-Osaka Kyuko Railway
Nose Electric Railway
Hokushin Kyuko Railway
Kobe Rapid Transit Railway
Semboku Rapid Railway
Kobe New Transit
Keifuku Electric Railroad
Hieizan Railway
Eizan Electric Railway
Keihan Bus
Hankyu Bus
Wakayama Bus
Wakayama Bus Naga
Shintetsu Bus
Kintetsu Bus
Kyoto Bus
Hankyu Denen Bus
Nankai Rinkan Bus
Nankai Bus
Nankai Wing Bus Kanaoka
Nankai Wing Bus South
Keihan City Bus
Kobe City Transportation Promotion
Keihan Uji Bus
Amagasaki Transportation Service
Hanshin Bus
Keihan Kyoto Kotsu

... but NOT JR Lines.

It also grants you discounts at certain shops along each of the lines.

Comparing the two options... (Adult Prices)
- JR Rail Pass (7 days) x 1   ¥29 110
- JR Rail Pass (14 days) x 1    ¥46 390
- Kansai Thru Pass (3-day) x 3 + (2-day) x 1
               ¥19 600 (5200 x 3 + 4000 x 1)

Note that if you get the JR Pass, you will at least require a return trip (of ¥580) if you are based in or around the International Convention Centre (as Kyoto Subway is not a JR Line) and intend to board JR services at Kyoto Station.

If however you decide you want to go further out than the main 4 Cities in Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara) and go as far as Kanagawa, then as fkraiem said, getting a JR Regional Pass would be your best bet.

Also note that the JR Rail Pass must be purchased outside of Japan (at this point in time) whereas the JR Regional Passes can be purchased either outside Japan or within Japan (with a ~¥1000 price increase).

The Kansai Thru Pass is only available from within Japan. Further, the JR Rail Passes are all consecutive use (as in a 7 day pass expires 7 days after first using it regardless of how many times you have used in in those 7 days) whereas the Kansai Thru Pass is non-consecutive (using one day and not the next will still be valid for 2 more days (in the case of a 3-day pass).

In Summary

It really is up to your travel preference as to which routes you travel and how much time you have. Most of the time JR routes with be faster, though more expensive however they also cover a lot larger area. Getting a JR Pass may not be the cheapest option in all instances and will require an application before you arrive to Japan).

As @fkraiem states in the comments, over at Japan Guide there is a comparison of Kansai-centric fare paying methods which may help you make up your mind as to which would be the most beneficial to your situation.

  • Tl;dr for the Kansai Thru Pass: it covers basically anything that's not JR. japan-guide has a page comparing the various rail passes in Kansai.
    – fkraiem
    Jul 13, 2016 at 5:40
  • @fkraiem Thanks for the link. Should I put it in the answer somewhere? Jul 13, 2016 at 7:15
  • Up to you. It doesn't really change the basic answer, which is "It depends", but it may help make the decision.
    – fkraiem
    Jul 13, 2016 at 7:21

Note 1: Ishikawa is a prefecture, not a city. Its capital city is Kanazawa.

Opinionated note 2: Hiroshima prefecture is the most beautiful area in all of Japan. You do have to get out of Hiroshima city, however.

The usual answer is that you must add up the cost of all the train trips you plan to make (which you can look up for example on Hyperdia), and compare the total to the price of the pass. Some rules of thumb, however:

  • The Icoca & Haruka package is almost always the cheapest way to travel to and from Kansai airport.
  • If you limit yourself to Kyoto-Nara-Osaka-Kobe, a pass does not make sense.
  • If you go to more distant places, then it is much easier to make a pass pay off. For example a round-trip from Kyoto to Kanazawa is almost 13,000 yen, so a Kansai-Hokuriku pass (15,000 yen) almost pays for itself.
  • 1
    Adding to this answer, you might want to consider flexibility as well. In my case, I stayed in Kyoto but used by JR pass to go to Osaka for the evening multiple times during my stay (just because I could), something that I could never have done without it.
    – JS Lavertu
    Jul 12, 2016 at 14:19
  • @AerisFang The problem with "flexibility" is that its value is impossible to quantify since it depends on trips which by definition you do not know you are going to make. So it requires speculation, which I am not willing to go into.
    – fkraiem
    Jul 12, 2016 at 23:06
  • @fkraiem, absolutely in agreement with you. My comment was oriented more towards the asker as a thing to keep in mind.
    – JS Lavertu
    Jul 12, 2016 at 23:53
  • Hiroshima I would say is more West than East, and though I don't agree with @fkraiems opinion of it being the "most beautiful area in all of Japan", I still don't think it would be a waste to go and see. Jul 13, 2016 at 4:20
  • Talking about Hiroshima being in the east was a mistake in the original version of my question. I get the two directions muddled up from time to time.
    – Golden Cuy
    Jul 23, 2016 at 6:12

Confusingly, there's another option if you want to visit Takayama and Kanazawa: The Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, which isn't listed in the JR-West Rail Pass page, but on another page called Tourist Pass, which has the logos of JR Central and JR West, which was linked to from the site of JR Central.

That was the option I chose.

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